Book Review: The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 13, 2011

An excellent presentation of the father of all history books, by the great and good Robert Strassler, a host of scholars who were called upon to write very informative forewords and afterwords to the Histories, and of course, by “the father of history/father of lies” himself. But to call this a historical work would be to undersell it; it is also a geographical work, an anthropological work, and a cultural work. It covers historical happenings, but also relates mythological stories, philosophical musings, and serves as a political tract as well. As per usual with Strassler, this book has plenty of maps and pictures as well; the maps being especially valuable to anyone who approaches Herodotus with scholarly aims in mind. Additionally, the translation appears to be very agreeable indeed; I am no Greek-speaker, but the text was eminently readable, which gives me a lot of confidence that the translation was well done.

Herodotus, to be sure, got a lot wrong in his book, but he also got a lot right as well, which is quite impressive given the fact that he was but one man seeking to compile a history, and that he had plenty of constraints working against him as he sought to put an accurate history together; the ancient world certainly did not afford him the conveniences that modern historians take for granted as they seek to construct their own scholarly works.

Given my roots, I didn’t like reading many of the stories about the Hellenic wars with the Persian Empire. But I suppose that was to be expected.

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